The world is gradually adopting remote working as a preferred work style. Over the years, this method has improved employees’ productivity and so produced impressive results for employers. However, among numerous advantages, remote working also has its disadvantages—one of which is posing a cybersecurity threat.
Remote working can expose workplace computer systems to hacking and phishing resulting from no direct supervision over individual data security. So what threats do employees and employers face? And how can you tacle them?
What Are the Cybersecurity Risks of Remote Working?
By being able to identify cybersecurity risks every remote worker faces, it will be easy to tackle them accordingly.
1. Unsecure Wi-Fi
One of the perks of remote working is the ability to work from anywhere in the world. You can use free public Wi-Fi wherever you are, whether it’s a coffee shop or an extension of a restaurant.
While this is great, public Wi-Fi can expose company data on your systems to cybercriminals. And because such Wi-Fi lack encryption, cybercriminals can gain access to confidential information or monitor your internet traffic as they please.
Even worse, these cybercriminals can steal your identity or sensitive details, posing serious data insecurity to your organization. In addition to other dangers of using public Wi-Fi networks, cybercriminals may steal information through malware and you may be completely unaware of this, which makes it a terrible scenario.
2. Unsecured Corporate Network
For companies that adopt remote working, it is common to use corporate networks to transfer data and communicate with each other. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, CISA, reports that hackers target a broad range of corporate networks, and this is possible if their network equipment suffers great vulnerabilities.
A few examples of these vulnerabilities include weak passwords, outdated software applications, and unsecured emails. Hackers use these to attack the company system, causing a data breach.
3. Susceptible to Phishing and Ransomware
Susceptibility to phishing and ransomware is a serious cybersecurity challenge. Employees may click fake pop-up messages or email links that were targeted to them by online hackers. This way, cybercriminals can steal passwords and prevent users from accessing their computer system.
Or cybercriminals can get company information and mimic the business or personnel, including their websites and media platforms. Then they deceive unsuspecting individuals into exposing their sensitive data, like passwords, causing a dent in the organization’s integrity.
Ransomware completely blocks you off your systems, while phishing mimics an authority or organization. Both scenarios are common to small and large businesses.
4. Vulnerable Hardware
Hardware vulnerability is a system weakness that results in a direct attack on the hardware. In this case, it’s that of the remote worker. Remote workers use their phones and other handy gadgets while working, which can expose their systems to hackers.
Cybercriminals can introduce viruses into hardware when these devices are not protected. A remote worker using an old system or unprotected storage device would also be susceptible to cybersecurity threats. And one way to avoid this is by using hardware security keys to prevent cases of compromised passwords due to hardware vulnerability.
How to Protect Against the Cybersecurity Risks of Remote Working
So now you know what threats you face. But how can you tackle them?
1. Use an Antivirus and Internet Security
Antiviruses scan and eliminate threats to prevent data corruption in a system. Using an antivirus as a preventive measure, you can protect your system from viruses, malware, and monitoring networks.
A good example of internet security is the firewall. These act as barriers to incoming traffic on a computer system and as protection for private networks. As a remote worker, installing a standard firewall tool would provide top security, especially when you visit sites susceptible to phishing.
2. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
VPNs are one of the best ways to protect your privacy as a remote worker. With VPNs, you can log into your computer network using public Wi-Fi without the fear of being monitored or hacked by cybercriminals. In addition to protecting your privacy, VPNs serve as a shield for your online activities.
With VPNs, you can visit and log into any website without being targeted. It’s a good way to protect employees using remote access. There are paid VPNs that ensure security. However, there are also free VPNs for PCs that can provide decent enough protection.
3. Add a Centralized Storage Solution
In this case, employers provide remote workers with a central location to store sensitive information. This way, it is less likely to get into the hands of cybercriminals. As a remote worker, all company data, including passwords and customer data, should be stored in a centralized location.
It’s also easy to monitor data security for a single terminal and provide solutions in case of a data breach. The simple way to do this is by hosting a virtual environment where remote workers can consistently log in and access all sensitive data they may need.
4. Secure Your Home Wi-Fi
As a remote worker, the responsibility of cybersecurity also falls on you. To secure your home Wi-Fi, you’ll need to change the default username and passwords your Wi-Fi came with to something unique. You could change this on a regular basis.
In addition to changing passwords, hiding your network from view is also important. You can do this by using the Service Set Identifier (SSID) feature on your Wi-Fi. Another measure is to update your router software.
Wi-Fi network encryption is a great way to secure your home Wi-Fi. Thankfully, most WPA2 and WPA3 routers have encryption options that enable your Wi-Fi network to encrypt all data from your device. This way, only you will have access to your network and the sole way anyone can gain that access is to log into your network.
5. Avoid Third-Party Intrusion at Work
Avoiding third-party control or intrusion at work is an ideal way to tackle cybersecurity issues. When there’s a data breach in a third-party application, it’s likely that this would affect your systems and may invariably leave you susceptible to cybercriminals. If possible, cut off all third-party control, a good step towards avoiding data leakage at work.
However, if third-party applications are necessary, an organization needs to discuss them with the providers to ensure that all security gaps are attended to accordingly. This process includes retrieval methods in case of a future data breach. On the part of the remote worker, it’s wise to avoid third-party apps that would require sensitive data.
Learning Basic Cybersecurity as a Remote Worker
While larger cybersecurity responsibilities lie on the organization you work for, you also need to learn basic cybersecurity practices as a remote worker to keep risks in check. This way, you’ll be able to recognize and avoid them when they arise. By taking courses on cybersecurity and navigating safely online, you’ll be less susceptible to hacking.